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The Use of Behavior Change Theories in Dietetics Practice in Primary Health Care: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

      Abstract

      Background

      Behavior change theories frameworks provide the theoretical underpinning for effective health care. The extent to which they are applied in contemporary dietetics interventions has not been explored.

      Objective

      To systematically review the evidence of behavior change theory-based interventions delivered by credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners in primary health care settings.

      Methods

      Medline, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, PsycINFO, Embase, and Cochrane databases were searched for English language, randomized controlled trials before August 2019. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis guidelines were followed. Eligible interventions included adults (aged ≥18 years) receiving face-to-face dietetics care underpinned by behavior change theories in primary health care settings with outcome measures targeting changes in health behaviors or health outcomes. Screening was conducted independently in duplicate and data were extracted using predefined categories. The quality of each study was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool. The body of evidence was assessed using the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Manual Conclusion Grading Table.

      Results

      Thirty articles reporting on 19 randomized controlled trials met the eligibility criteria, representing 5,172 adults. Thirteen studies (68%) showed significant improvements for the primary outcome measured. Social cognitive theory was the behavior change theory most commonly applied in interventions (n=15) with 11 finding significant intervention effects. Goal setting, problem solving, social support, and self-monitoring were the most commonly reported techniques (n=15, n=14, n=11, and n=11, respectively). Most studies had a high (n=11) or unclear (n=8) risk of bias. There was fair evidence (Grade II) supporting the use of behavior change theories to inform development of dietetics interventions.

      Conclusions

      Interventions delivered by credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners that were underpinned by behavior change theories and utilizing various behavior change techniques were found to have potential to be more effective at improving patient health outcomes than dietary interventions without theoretical underpinnings. Findings from this review should inform future primary health care research in the area of dietary behavior change. In addition, findings from this review highlight the need for stronger documentation of use of behavior change theory and techniques that map on to the theory within dietetics practice.

      Keywords

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      Biography

      R. R. Rigby is a PhD candidate, Nutrition and Dietetics, Griffith University and Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Southport, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

      Biography

      L. J. Mitchell is a senior lecturer, Nutrition and Dietetics, Griffith University and Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Southport, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

      Biography

      K. Hamilton is an associate professor, Nutrition and Dietetics, Griffith University and Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Southport, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

      Biography

      L. T. Williams is a professor and head, Nutrition and Dietetics, Griffith University and Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Southport, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.